2021 NBA Futures Postseason Betting Guide

SI Gambling editor Ben Heisler examines the latest futures odds for the 2021 NBA Playoffs and Play-in Tournament.
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With the 2021 NBA regular season concluding on Sunday, May 16, sportsbooks released their most up-to-date odds for this year’s postseason.

The State Farm NBA Play-in Tournament begins on Tuesday, May 18 as the 7–10 seeds in the Eastern and Western conferences face off for the final two remaining playoff spots. The Nos. 9 and 10 seeds must win out in order to advance to the postseason. If the No. 7 or 8 seed loses its first-round matchup, that team plays the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game for the last remaining spot in the postseason.


The SI Crossover team makes their predictions for the 2021 NBA play-in tournament 

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Matchups and Schedule

Follow every matchup, date, time and network across the NBA playoffs.

Tuesday, May 18: Eastern Conference

Game 1: No. 9 Indiana vs. No 10. Charlotte

Game 2: No. 7 Boston vs. No. 8 Washington

Wednesday, May 19: Western Conference

Game 3: No. 9 Memphis vs. No 10. San Antonio

Game 4: No. 7 Los Angeles (Lakers) vs. No. 8 Golden State


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2021 NBA Championship Futures Odds 

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

NBA Championship Odds 2021

Brooklyn Nets +250

LA Lakers +400

LA Clippers +500

Philadelphia 76ers +700

Utah Jazz +700

Milwaukee Bucks +800

Phoenix Suns +1800

Denver Nuggets +3000

Miami Heat +3000

Dallas Mavericks +5000

Portland Trail Blazers +5500

Atlanta Hawks +10000

Boston Celtics +10000

Golden State Warriors +10000

New York Knicks +10000

Memphis Grizzlies +25000

Washington Wizards +25000

Charlotte Hornets +50000

Indiana Pacers +50000

San Antonio Spurs +50000

Contenders

Brooklyn Nets

When the Nets acquired James Harden, multiple sportsbooks moved their odds down to cofavorites with the Lakers. In October, Nets futures odds were as high as 9/1 at multiple sportsbooks but eventually closed at 6/1 at the start of the season. In mid-January, DraftKings Sportsbook moved Brooklyn from +500 down to +300.

It's daunting to match up against Brooklyn’s Big Three of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. With all three finally playing together, the Nets have gone 7–2 overall this year. Following a four-game losing streak, Brooklyn has both won and covered the spread in their final five games of the year, with Harden, Durant and Irving all playing together in the last two.

Brooklyn has seen a steady rise in handle percentage at DraftKings Sportsbook throughout the course of the season. As of Friday, May 14, the Nets have the largest percentage of NBA championship futures money taken in at DK Sportsbook at 37%, with the Lakers (25%), 76ers (10%), Nuggets (6%) and Jazz (5%) all following suit.

The Play: PASSInflated value for a team that sportsbooks have a ton of exposure to. Between Harden, Durant, and Irving’s nine games played together all season and a first-year head coach, I’ll likely pass for now and maybe jump on if they find themselves down in the series.

Los Angeles Lakers

With a healthy LeBron James back in the mix, the Lakers remain the top contender in the Western Conference, despite being the No. 7 seed with a play-in matchup against Stephen Curry and the eighth-seeded Warriors.

Los Angeles has a lot of tread on the tires from the championship run in the bubble a season ago, and both James and Anthony Davis have missed substantial time this season. James has already been on the record for his loathing of the play-in game format, and even if they lose to Golden State, they’ll likely still make it in with a matchup of the winner between No. 9 Memphis and No. 10 San Antonio two days later. The Lakers, according to BetMGM would be slight favorites against the Nets if they were to make it to the NBA Finals,

The Play: FADE—I’ll be fading the Lakers as the public team all season long, even if this is by far and away the best value offered throughout the season. Instead, I’ll look to see what the odds for a Nets/Lakers NBA Finals matchup will be to potentially grab exposure to the series with higher odds.

Los Angeles Clippers

At first glance, the Clippers' two losses against Western Conference scrubs in the Rockets and Thunder don’t inspire much confidence heading into the postseason. However, it keeps them out of a potential first-round matchup with the Lakers (should they advance).

The Clippers faces the Mavericks in a 4 vs. 5 matchup in the first round and find themselves as heavy favorites at -360 to advance. From there, they’ll have to get past the top-seeded Jazz (barring a loss to the eventual eight-seed) to advance. Even as a lower seed, the Clippers would likely be favored against Utah in a second-round series; going 3–1 against them this year.

The addition of Serge Ibaka this year is a big deal. His numbers were way up a season ago in the postseason and he’s back after missing nearly 30 games in mid-March. His impact for a team that struggled to find an identity last postseason could play a meaningful role this year.

The Play: BETAfter an embarrassing fall from the playoffs last year, the Clippers are in much better shape to make a deep run this season. I like their balance with both Leonard and George finishing with true shooting percentages of more than 60%. They also lead the league in team three-point shooting percentage at 41.1%, so teams must respect their spacing on the floor, while also trying to slow down Marcus Morris and Ibaka in the paint.

Philadelphia 76ers

The top seed in the East after 20 years, the 76ers enter the postseason looking to make a statement after early exits the last three seasons, including a first-round ousting a season ago. Their defense is legit; ranking second in efficiency behind only the Lakers, but their team offense still remains a concern, ranking 14th in effective field goal percentage.

The real key to this number is the road through the playoffs. The Nets and Bucks have the more difficult draw, with both teams likely playing each other just to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals to face Philadelphia.

The Play: BET (to win Eastern Conference)I like the 76ers’ to advance through the Eastern Conference and will side with the likely more rested team after Brooklyn and Milwaukee cannibalize each other in the previous round. A fair value here is +300 as I don’t see them winning out in the NBA Finals.

Utah Jazz

I wrote about the historic start the Jazz were on midway through the season. They weren’t just a juggernaut winning straight-up but were on pace to hold the highest-ever cover percentage since 2003. Since covering 75.9% of the time through their first 29 games, Utah went on to cover the spread in 56.9% of their games for the full season. A solid number, but nowhere near the record-setting pace they had been on.

The Jazz are well balanced, finishing top 5 in points/game, average scoring margin, effective field goal percentage and shooting efficiency. Even more impressive? They finished top 5 in those same categories on the defensive end as well. Jordan Clarkson is likely the Sixth Man of the Year and they generated plenty of three-point shots, leading the league in 16.7/game to set an NBA record.

If Utah is going to make it to the NBA Finals, let alone get to the Western Conference Finals, they’ll need to continue that balance in the postseason against much better defenses. Via ESPN, Utah was 1–6 when Donovan Mitchell attempted more than 25 field goals.

The Play: BETI like the Jazz as a flyer bet in a year when the Western Conference is a bit beaten up. Factor in a substantial home-court advantage where they’ll have 71% capacity and that may be the boost they need to get key wins in Salt Lake City as the top seed.

Milwaukee Bucks

On Feb. 18, Milwaukee was sitting at 16–13, fresh off a 14-point drubbing against the Raptors to extend its losing streak to five straight. Since then, they went 30–13 down the stretch to lock up the three-seed and face off against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year in the Heat.

The Bucks went 2–1 this season against Miami with two blowout wins in each arena. The addition of Jrue Holiday gives Milwaukee a far better option of matching up with Jimmy Butler on the floor, but it was the Heat defense that gave the Bucks fits last year.

The Play: PASSMilwaukee is talented enough to win the championship, but the road ahead in the East seems far too difficult to overcome. A matchup with Brooklyn in the semifinals is almost guaranteed, followed by another daunting task waiting in Philadelphia.

Dark Horse Teams

Phoenix Suns

It may feel a bit disrespectful to have the No. 2 seed in the West with 18/1 odds to win the championship, but remember that before the trade for Chris Paul, the Suns were 80/1 to win it all. Full disclosure, I have that 80/1 futures ticket on Phoenix in my pocket, so I will be strongly hedging should they start to fade. For now, it’s a solid flyer.

Denver Nuggets

No Jamal Murray makes this a pass for me, even with the likely MVP candidate holding down the fort in Nikola Jokić. Denver, to its credit, continues to play great, going 13–5 since Murray went down and 30–10 since Feb. 27. At 30/1, I get the appeal, but not having their lead guard in meaningful postseason games will cost them.

Miami Heat

The Heat surprised the betting world a season ago, marching through the bubble until they met the Lakers in the NBA Finals. This year, they’ve dealt with injuries, an inconsistent offense and now have the task of shutting down an improved Bucks team in the first round. This is an easy fade here.


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